Day Trip to the Lake of Gennesaret and the Golan Heights
On my prior trips to Israel, I only managed to spend a couple of days in the Golan Heights. It was a cold week in January, three years ago, and I hadn’t seen much of the region. I merely drove past the Lake of Gennesaret, so it was definitely still on my list. The lake goes by several names like the Sea of Galilee, Lake of Tiberias, or simply Kinneret, the Israeli name.
On my last big trip, in order to write the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem guide, I spent five days in Nazareth. Since I also cover sightseeing spots in this guide, I made sure to explore the region and get to know all the good spots. After Haifa and Acre, I definitely wanted to see the Lake of Gennesaret. So, this day trip to the north of Israel was more than welcome.
Stop #1 Capernaum – Lake of Gennesaret
Capernaum lies directly at the Lake of Gennesaret and was an old fishing village in Galilee. It is said that Jesus might have lived here for several years, as well as some of his Apostles. Peter is said to be from Capernaum and was also hosting Jesus during his stay.
At the suspected former position of Peter’s house, you can find a memorial site. Below the house, the archaeological excavation site is open to visitors. There, you can see the remains of an old private house from the 1st century. Two churches were built on top of it and therefore it is suspected to be Peter’s former residence.
Further archaeological findings indicate a synagogue from the 4th century. Even though Jesus could not have possibly interacted here in any way, it is still one of the oldest in the world and it is breathtaking to walk through the old ruins.
And the scenery of the Lake of Gennesaret and the Mediterranean vegetation is spectacular.
My advice – bring a Sarong! Since this is a holy site you may only access after covering your knees and shoulders.
Stop #2 Mount of Beatitudes
We went on to the Mount of Beatitudes. I don’t know about you, but this didn’t ring a bell for me – at least not the English term. Only when I was told that this is said to be the place where Jesus made his Sermon on the Mount, I understood its significance.
We took a relatively long break here, even though it is only a small church. Anyway, enough time to relax in the sun and get some refreshments in the shop.
Stop #3 Banias
In the Golan Heights, at the base of Mount Hermon – the highest mountain on the Israeli border to Syria and Lebanon – there is an antique site built around a fresh water source: Banias. As you can see in the shrine, this place was formerly connected to the Greek god Pan. It is also a sidearm of the river Jordan, that is important for the fresh water supply of the country. Archaeologists also discovered traces of an ancient city dating back to the time of Alexander the Great. It was also mentioned in the Evangelions of Matthew and Mark under the name of Caesarea Philippi.
We took an hour break here as well. We used this time to take a walk along the river. There is also a waterfall. Sadly, I couldn’t take photos.
At the entrance, you can find a small restaurant.
Stop #4 Mount Bental
For this one, you will need some background information. Until 1967, the hillsides in the south west of Mount Herman belonged to the neighboring country Syria. Israel conquered this area on the 10th of June, 1967, and it got annexed in 1981. Since then, the mountain became a strategically important position for Israel. There are several observation posts that the Israeli secret service uses to survey vast areas of the west of Syria. It is also the highest manned outpost of the United Nations.
Mount Bental is a war site. You can get a good impression of how a military base looked like back in the days – bunkers and trenches are open for visitors.
The valley at the bottom of Mount Hermon is named “Valley of Tears” in memory of the fallen soldiers. Nevertheless, Mount Bental offers a fantastic panorama and it almost impossible to imagine the events of the time of the Yom Kippur war.
Today, this place is a tourist attraction. There is also a small café offering warm drinks and snacks.
Stop #5 Wine Cellar in the Golan Heights
The next stop was a wine cellar in a small kibbutz. A kibbutz is a small countryside village, most closely described as a commune. People share property and have basic democratic structures.
In the kibbutz Ein Zivan, you can find said wine cellar, where they produce up to 10,000 bottles of wine – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and also Shiraz. Even though I don’t drink, I still found it interesting to follow the processes from harvest to corking the bottle.
The wine tasting was included, although I declined with thanks.
Stop #6 Swimming in the Lake of Gennesaret
At the end of our trip, we were allowed to take an hour of rest at the lake. We stopped at a beach at the Lake of Gennesaret in order to take a swim and simply relax. Luckily enough, there was almost no one else around so we could really be by ourselves and enjoy the stay.
The Lake of Gennesaret and the Golan Heights have a magic charm and fascinate me personally. Already on my first trip, three years ago, I realized the special energy of this place. And this time, it was the same. I think this region is very interesting and beautiful.
Have you ever been to the Lake of Gennesaret or the Golan Heights? Did you like it? Leave a Comment!
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